15 Alluring Cheese Shops Where You Can Get Free Samples
It's hard to tire of cheese, since each type in this beloved category of dairy products is unique. In the culinary world, a diverse cheese board is hard to beat, but many grocery chains are sorely lacking in the complex styles of cheese connoisseurs crave. Whether the cheese you seek is sharp or nutty, hard or soft, blue or brie, these 15 cheese shops across the U.S. offer free samples to help find the perfect variety without buying blind.
Fromagerie Sophie adds a little Parisian atmosphere to the seaside town of San Luis Obispo, California, with its curated collection of cured meats, crackers, and, of course, international cheeses, all of which can be sampled for free, provided they're not wrapped for individual sale. Employees can also recommend certain cheeses to pair with the offerings at nearby central California wineries.
With locations throughout the San Diego area, Venissimo Cheese lets customers try domestic and imported cheeses before deciding which to use to create a personalized charcuterie board, complete with pork cured and sliced in the Spanish tradition. The shop also prepares cheese cakes -- not cheesecake, but tiered arrangements of brie and other cheese wheels -- for special occasions. Customer profiles help frequent visitors remember which varieties they've already tried to save time and money in the future.
Its remote location and odd hours can make Briar Rose Creamery in Oregon's Willamette Valley seem inaccessible, but fresh and aged varieties of tangy goat cheese from local creameries make the trip worthwhile. Employees provide free samples in between trips to the back room to prepare each cheese onsite. The decadent truffles made from goat cheese and covered in rich chocolate are not to be missed.
It should come as no surprise that California's Sonoma Valley boasts an artisan cheese shop to pair with its abundance of world-renowned wineries. The owners of Vella Cheese Co. pride themselves on creating local cheeses, using cream from free-range cows at the local Mertens Dairy farm and finishing each one onsite in an historic stone building. Try their prizewinning varieties of cheddar and Monterey jack, plain or infused with striking flavors such as habanero and rosemary.
Fromagination in Madison, Wisconsin, makes good on the state's title as America's Dairyland, providing an ever-rotating selection of handmade artisanal cheeses from more than 60 independent cheesemakers across the state. Sheep's, goat's, and cow's milk cheeses are all available to sample and purchase in-store or online, alongside an impressive roster of dairy-centric accessories and gift sets. For better deals, check out the small portions on sale for less than $5 beside the cashier's stand.
Three newly immigrated brothers founded Philadelphia's Di Bruno Bros. in 1939, and the shop has been treating customers to samples of addictive culinary delights ever since. Aside from vast stores of imported European and local cheeses, this shop in the bustling Italian Market also carries authentic Italian spreads, high-quality cured meats, and delectably seasoned nuts like black lava cashews.